Yusef combines a little new and a little old

It may not be flashy, but the latest Yusef album shines with subtle grace and consistency.

Yusef Islam, the artist formerly known as Cat Stevens, returns with “Tell ‘Em I’m Gone,” his third mainstream album under his new moniker after a 25-year hiatus from music.

“Tell ‘Em I’m Gone” feels a little bit new and a little bit old. Yusef blends five new tracks and five covers for sound that’s bluesier than 2009’s “Roadsinger.”

Yusef still boasts the great voice and ability that made him a star in the late 1960s and 1970s and a 2014 Rock ‘N’ Roll Hall of Fame inductee.

When it comes to the musical icons borne out of the 1960s and 1970s, Yusef feels a bit overlooked. That may have something to do with his hiatus from 1978 to 2006 and the controversy that he faced in recent years — most of which seemed a bit overblown.

The album opens with “I Was Raised in Babylon,” a sparse track where Yusef ruminates on issues of power and poverty in today’s world. The somber opening gives way to the playfully bluesy “Big Boss Man,” which progresses the themes of the spiritual exploration and expression — something that’s nothing new to Yusef albums. His cover of “You Are My Sunshine” takes on surprising life with Yusef’s upbeat arrangement, and “Editing Floor Blues” continues the themes of understated blues.

Most fans know Yusef — or probably Cat Stevens — for hits like “Peace Train,” “Wild World” and “Father and Son.” Though an undeniably pleasant, enjoyable album, “Tell ‘Em I’m Gone” doesn’t produce a clear single like any of his classic albums or the title track to “Roadsinger.” But that’s not a problem, as it makes for an album better enjoyed as a whole.

The album provides few standout, wowing moments, but it progresses with a steady, understated confidence.

 

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